24 April 2023

By Lali van Zuydam

Eight staff members and students represented CREST at the Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, between 11 and 14 April 2023. This conference was the seventeenth international gathering of the global PCST Network.

The overarching theme of the conference was ‘Creating Common Ground’. Creating common ground supports the idea of a collaborative network of researchers and practitioners in science communication who study or work within science journalism, engagement, citizen science, informal science education, and innovation across different cultures and continents.

Professor Marina Joubert chaired the conference programme committee and was responsible for creating and curating a packed programme over four days. On Tuesday, 11 April 2023, a full day of pre-conference workshops featured topics related to storytelling, the value of listening, inclusive science engagement, using art to share science, and communicating science in plain language. The main conference ran over three full days (12 – 14 April 2023) and featured a line-up of seven plenaries and 124 parallel sessions and themed lunch sessions. The parallel sessions included oral and visual talks, mini workshops, performances and demonstrations. The conference was preceded by three days of online talks (3 – 5 April 2023) to include science communication researchers and practitioners who could not travel to Rotterdam.

“Building this conference programme has been challenging and demanding, but it has given me a ringside seat to see what is happening at the cutting edge of science communication research and practice worldwide,” Marina said. “It has been immensely gratifying to see it all come together and to receive the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the nearly 700 delegates from around the world who gathered in Rotterdam for this immersive event.”

The CREST team participated in the conference in several ways. Professor Nelius Boshoff presented a co-authored paper (with Dr Similo Ngwenya) on ‘Impact contributions of PhD graduates: incorporating the voice of science communication’, while the paper presented by Dr Dominic Okoliko was about ‘Exploring inclusive climate change coverage from the journalists’ perspectives: Evidence from South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya’. Professor Joubert participated in a panel discussion about a research agenda for communicating basic science and convened a roundtable about visible scientists in the age of Covid-19.

Space keeper

Some members of the CREST team attending PCST 2023 (from left to right): Dr Dominic Ayegba Okoliko, Marnell Kirsten, Lili Rademan, Professor Marina Joubert, Linka Maritz, Professor Nelius Boshoff and Dr Similo Ngwenya.

CREST scicomm students and staff at PCST2023: (from left to right): Marnell Kirsten, Lali van Zuydam, Marina Joubert and Lili Rademan.

In the months leading up to the event, MPhil student Linka Maritz and PhD student Lili Rademan helped Marina to liaise with the delegates and finalise the programme. Lali van Zuydam co-presented a pre-conference workshop on plain language in science communication. Lili Rademan presented an individual paper about her PhD research into pseudoscience and misinformation in the media with specific reference to cancer reporting. Marnell Kirsten presented the results of a comparative analysis of data visualisations in news media science stories in South Africa and the United States. She also presented a paper on the use of data visualisation in science communication. The participation of Lali, Lili, and Marnell was made possible by funding from the South African Research Chair in Science Communication, hosted at the Journalism Department at Stellenbosch University, with some additional support from CREST.

There were about 30 South Africans at the conference, including staff members from Stellenbosch University, the University of Johannesburg, the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Cape Town, Rhodes University, as well as staff members of the National Research Foundation, the Africa Health Research Institute, ScienceLink, Hortgro, and the Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence. Dr Mamoeletsi Mosia, CEO of the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), participated in a plenary discussion about finding common ground in science communication.